Many people are of the opinion that walkie talkies are costly to own or maintain. While this might be true of many brands with their flagship two-way radio models costing a lot and offering many functions, they also have on sale many other models that would set you back one or more dollars under $20. The problem with picking out affordable products is that many manufacturers often have tacky radios on sale. This review was done in order to ensure you do not fall victim or purchase cheap knockoffs.
We understand that you might want to have fun with members of your family on the lawn, play hide and seek with the kids, or add just add some grit when you are on the road with friends. You do not need the most advanced handheld radios for this; you just need a simple radio, preferably with an LCD display, a durable push to talk button, and quality signal reception for communication during an emergency situation.
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Considerations for choosing walkie talkies under $20
Choosing the best walkie talkie or device under $20 can be a problem for many people, as they are unsure of what to expect from the radio or the features to be on the lookout. To simplify your radio hunt, we have drafted all the important criteria the radio should meet. They are as follows:
The dimensions of your radio are often tricky, as there is no one size fits all. The dimensions depend largely on what you intend to use the radios for, with recreational users often opting for smaller handy radios and heavy power users going for larger, bulky radios. This is often because the bigger radios have more features or functions and, in many cases, have a larger battery capacity. Suppose you intend to use these radios with kids ages 1-7. In that case, it is advised that you purchase a unit about the size of most mobile phones, a radio that can easily fit in their hand.
The range is simply the distance between a radio pair for you to communicate optimally; the better radios have ranges miles long. But if you intend to use the walkie talkie in your backyard, you do not need all the mileage. A few meters would do, as long as the audio quality is prim and proper. If you buy your radio and you are not able to communicate across the distances advertised on the package, it could be as a result of the obstructions/obstacles in your terrain or the wattage of your radio.
The range often advertised on the radio package is, in many cases, gotten from unrealistic conditions, usually in places with no obstacles in the environment. So if you would be using the radio in a busy town or city, expect the radio’s range to be significantly reduced.
When radio shopping, you have the option of choosing between the Family Radio Service (FRS) radios and General Mobile Radio Service (GMRS) radios. FRS radios are smaller and less expensive than the GMRS radio variant. This is often because GMRS radios have a higher wattage, which translates to more range. FRS radios are capped at half a watt, with the GMRS radios having as much as 50 watts. The downside to choosing the GMRS radio variant is that you would need a license from the Federal Communications Commission to transmit using the radio.
You do not want to buy a radio that would be damaged on the first fall or that would fail you in the times you need it the most. Also, when you consider the fact that most of these radios are roughly the same size as most mobile phones, you would understand to expect it to fall more than a few times, especially when you buy the unit for children at the younger ages. It is important that your choice radio offer you some protection against shock, dust and liquid spills.
These features do not have anything to do with communication but would make for a better user experience. They are:
Weather channels: Some radios come equipped out of the box with a weather radio that allows the user to be a step ahead of mother nature. This feature means you are not caught flat-footed in case of any change in the weather in your location. It allows you to make plans on the fly and adds an extra layer of security.
Headset Jack: The headset jack gives the user some privacy; it allows the user to listen to transmissions privately or to listen to the FM radio without causing any inconvenience to anyone else. The headset jack allows users to do more as they can listen, contribute to conversations with their hands-free.
The battery life of the radio determines how much you can get the radio on a full charge; if the radio does not have a large battery capacity, you would be unable to enjoy the many other features on the device. The better radios often have multiple power sources; this could be aa batteries (alkaline batteries or lithium batteries), a lithium-ion battery or rechargeable batteries. The radio should also be easy to charge with the use of a dock charger, charging station or a USB cable for when you are on the road. Any radio you choose should be able to give you at least 12 hours battery life without you needing to worry about changing batteries or looking for an AC socket.
Most of these radios are for toddlers and children; it then becomes important that they meet up to a safety standard that ensures your child or ward is safe, even as he has fun with his communications radio. When walkie talkie shopping, inspect the package to know what materials the radios are made from, to ensure that the radios do not have small removable parts or covered with any plastic that could pose a choking hazard. Walkie talkies for children should have the panel covering the batteries screwed on so they do not access the power source.
The Best 15 walkie talkies under $20
1. Retevis RT38, 2 Pack
The Retevis RT38 walky talkies are powerful long-range devices. The two-way radios feature 22 channels with 121 CTCSS on each channel for user privacy. They are fitted with tech to improve communication. The two-way radios allow users to communicate with each other over long distances and for long periods. They are suitable for hiking and camping activities.
- The radio is easy to use
- Features include flashing low battery alert, double channel monitor and keypad tone
- Minimal power consumption ensures long battery life
- units are sold with belt clips, earpieces and user manuals
- It features an auto squelch function
- Equipped with vox for hands-free use
- The ham radio is fragile and not weatherproof
- It is only powered by batteries
2. Rivins Radios
Rivins long-range 2-way radios are aesthetic lightweight handheld radios. They feature 22 channels with 99 sets of CTCSS (privacy codes) so users can enjoy secure and quality communication with friends and family. The device is powered by 4 AAA alkaline batteries and can pick up signals within a 5-mile range. Retevis radios are suitable for camping trips and picnics.
- The radios are license free to use
- Equipped with useful led flashlight
- The device sports a crystal clear LCD display
- Equipped with vox function for hands free use
- Uses a 2w transmitting power, so batteries last longer.
- Features channel scan, roger beep and keypad lock.
- The radios don’t have a squelch function to filter unwanted transmissions.
3. GOCOM Children Two-Way Radios, 2 Pack
Gocom handheld radios with their ergonomic design, are one of the best kids-oriented radios in the market. Each unit is pre-programmed with 9 channels and privacy codes for secure communication and allows for one-to-more group calls. The two-way radios are powered by 3 AAA batteries and last over 24 hours before the batteries need to be replaced. The radios are suitable for picnics and camping.
- Lightweight and easy to use
- The radios boast of a one of a kind sound quality.
- Units are drop resistant and boast of durability.
- Low power consumption gives optimal battery life.
- They can be used as toys for kids.
- The radios do not have long-range reception.
4. Ammonojo Kiddie Radios
If your kids enjoy adventures, then these handheld radios are the best toys for them! The Camouflage 2-way radio features about 22 channels and an LCD screen. Its signal range is great and can cover up to 4 miles of distance. It is easy to use and can be powered by four (4) standard triple-A batteries.
- It is the best gift for children between 3 and 12 years.
- It has a great signal range.
- It is available in different colors for kids.
- Its antenna makes up for its toy-ish nature, making it look somewhat real.
- Features an LCD display screen for fun
- Battery life is not so great.
- The signal range is not as far as specified.
5. Retevis RT30
These Retevis radios are suitable for kids of all ages, with its easy to use features and up to 16 channels. The Retevis RT30 2 way radio is available with a belt clip and has great sound quality. It is an excellent device for your kids and their friends to play games with. It is available in different colors and for immediate delivery.
- The Retevis RT30 is one of the best walkie talkies for kids of all ages.
- The device also has a great battery life.
- It is easy to use.
- It also has an auto power-off feature for battery conservation.
- It lacks volume control.
- Poor signal range.
6. BATURU Kids Radios
This walkie talkie has been designed to fit into the hands of two to three-year-old children comfortably. It features 22 channels, VOX and a backlit display showing its signal strength and the channels number. The BATURU walkie talkie can be powered by rechargeable batteries and has LED lights for viewing in the dark of the night.
- It is the best walkie talkie gift for communication between friends.
- Its price is very affordable.
- It has a strong signal reception.
- It is durable and has a long shelf life.
- It lacks auto power-off.
7. COBRA CX190, 4 Pack
Adults looking for a mixture of great signal strength and other rugged features must have heard about the Cobra CX190-4 radios. This two-way radio features 22 channels, a belt clip, and great signal strength. It is also capable of displaying weather alerts from weather channels on its LCD screen.
- Great for extreme weather conditions.
- Perfect long-range signal
- Its durability is top-notch.
- The device might experience poor signal coverage in severe weather conditions.
8. Topsung Radio
The topsung walkie talkie is a great communication device for both kids and adults. It features a keypad lock, 22 channels pre-programmed and a signal range of about 16 miles. The device also features about 121 privacy codes and an LCD screen for displaying the channel and signal strength. It is a great device for camping in the woods or for communication in the house.
- It is a great device for distant communication.
- This two-way radio is readily available with a free license and drop-protection.
- It is very easy-to-use.
- It is designed for both kids and adults.
- It doesn’t feature a charger or battery in its box.
9. LOOIKOOS Radios
Kids have a very wide imagination, especially when they fall within the ages of 3 and 12. If you seek to provide your kids with a little feeling of responsibility, then the LOOIKOOS radios for kids are great for them! The device has great battery life, great signal range and is perfect for far distance communication. These two-way radios also feature a flashlight, VOX, LCD display function and about 16 channels.
- It is easy to use.
- itUses simple PTT operations.
- Great frequency range.
- The device isn’t durable.
- The battery might become weak due to prolonged charging.
10. Marvel Spiderman Radio
Suppose you are seeking for pocket-friendly walkie talkies to amuse your kids. In that case, the Marvel Spiderman two way radio is an excellent communication device for them.
It is also great for family use and has a signal range of up to 3 miles in the distance. The Marvel Spiderman communications radio for kids have great battery life and are available in a pair once ordered.
- It is easy to use.
- Great for all kids within three (3) and twelve (12) years.
- Great signal strength.
- Signal strength not so great in certain regions.
11. Retevis RT-388
The retevis RT-388 is suitable for both kids and adults with its LCD display and functional buttons. It is a device that is perfect for camping and hiking. These two-way radios also feature 22 channels, VOX function, about 99 CTCSS and are suitable for children within ages four and above –because it is easy to use. It also features 10 call tones from which you can select from to meet your taste.
- It is easy to use.
- It is the best holiday/birthday gift for your boys and girls.
- It is pocket friendly.
- It features an LCD backlit display, which makes it easy to use in the dark.
- Poor battery life.
12. Retevis RT628 Walkie Talkie
The retevis RT628 is perfect for outdoor use and even for games between you, your kids or friends. It features an in-built flashlight and LCD backlit display for use at night –it is also easy to use and convenient to carry about because of its weight. It is convenient for both adults and children because of its functionality. It also boasts of long-range signal connections falling within 3 miles. This two-way radio is tested and trusted when it comes to durability, and it will undoubtedly serve you for long!
- It is very durable.
- It is suitable for kids and adults.
- Great signal range.
- Perfect for camping
- It battery life is not so great.
- The signal range can experience interruption.
13. SOCOTRAN Radio
The SOCOTRAN walkie talkies are a set of easy to use two-way radios, available in a 2-in-1 pack. It can be recharged with the aid of a micro USB port and is very convenient for family travel, camping and hiking. It can be used by both adults and kids and features 22 channels pre-programmed and a VOX feature. The device’s signal range is also great for a device of its size.
- It is great for outdoor and off-road camping.
- It is the best gift for kids and adults.
- It has great signal strength.
- The signal can be picked up by the wrong channel.
- The set doesn’t have the durability feature, which was specified.
14. Nestling Radios
Nestling gmrs two-way radio operates at UHF and has a frequency range of 3 miles under suitable conditions. The 22 channel radio has 38 privacy codes with 10 call tones for safe and secure calls. Although the radio doesn’t allow communication with other brands of two-way radios, multiple units can connect to the same channel for group calls. The radio is powered by 4AAA batteries that last long thanks to its minimal battery consumption.
- Easy for kids to operate
- Sports an LCD backlit display
- Features include auto channel scan, low battery alert and keypad lock
- Channels have auto squelch function
- It doesn’t have a headphone jack
15. BaoFeng BF-T3
The Baofeng kids walkie talkies are lightweight aesthetic radios made for indoor family use. The 22 channel radios operate on UHF, and thanks to their high penetration power, they have a range of about 5km. The ham radios have scan functions to locate channels being used, and each radio unit requires 3 AAA batteries to work.
- The two way radios are easy to operate.
- Features include talk confirmation tone, low battery alert and keypad lock.
- It sports a clear LCD screen.
- Equipped with auto squelch function
- They are made from shatter-resistant material.
- The radios cannot be programmed.
Overall Best Buy
The Cobra CX190. It is a tough pick to choose from all the radios on the list, the one that stands out when they are all so evenly priced and with similar features. But the Cobra edges out the rest with its simple but effective design; the all-black finish gives it a mature look, making it ideal for adults and kids alike. The seamless blend of the radio’s aesthetics and functionality makes this the best radio to purchase.
Best Budget Buy
The Nestling Radios. This might not be the most popular brand out there, but that is no cause for alarm as the brand is known for producing quality radios at a budget friendly price. Opting for this radio would save you some money and would still give you similar value to the pricier radios on this review list. The yellow color is sure to be a favorite among children, and the features on offer mean the functionality of the radio does not suffer.
How to connect walkie talkies
Pairing two walkie talkies are often very easy; in most cases, you should tune both devices to the same channel, and that should be all. Sometimes it might not be as straightforward, and this is usually when you try to pair radios that are of different brands or models. In which case, you would need to manually set both radios to the same frequency, as different manufacturers could have programmed different frequencies to different channel numbers. If you do this and you are still unable to communicate, the problem could be with the privacy codes available on the radios.
The privacy codes are of two types, the Continuous Tone Coded Squelch System (CTCSS) and the Digital Coded Squelch (DCS) system, both of which ensure that the users do not experience interference when transmitting on a channel. Different radios often have different squelch systems, and this would make it impossible to pair the radios. In such a scenario, you would need to turn off the function on both radios.